REGGIE HAYES: Listen, this is what Jessie Bates III will continue to do well with the Cincinnati Bengals
Jessie Bates III listens well.
You never hear that particular trait praised by the various analysts who clog the airwaves for the annual talkfest known as the NFL Draft. There’s no easy way to measure it, not like size, speed and solo tackles.
But I would argue Bates’ listening skills are of critical importance to where he ended up Friday night – the 54th pick of the draft by the Cincinnati Bengals.
He listens to his family, his coaches, his teammates, his training advisors and his friends. And he soaks in everything positive that comes his way.
“You have guys like Jaylon Smith in your life, who went through this same process,” Bates said. “If you’re smart, you go ask questions. Be a sponge and soak everything in. Try to do things they didn’t do (well) and do everything they did right.”
Bates calls Smith a direct role model, and it makes sense. Smith grew up in Fort Wayne, played at Bishop Luers High School, excelled at the University of Notre Dame and became a second-round draft pick. (He’d have been a first rounder if not for injury.)
Bates grew up in Fort Wayne, played at Snider, excelled at Wake Forest University and became a second-round draft pick.
Both trained with AWP Sports, founded by Michael Ledo, one of the most focused and disciplined mentors a young player can find. Ledo preaches athletic excellence, but also the excellence of character, another trait Bates shares with Smith.
Smith surprised Bates by wearing a JB3 shirt (Bates’ brand) to the draft party Friday at Crazy Pinz.
“He’s always been a role model for me,” Bates said. “I’ve grown up with Jaylon as well. With him having success in the NFL right now, who else would I rather be with?”
Jessie Bates III talks about the moment he was drafted by the Bengals and what it meant to share that moment with his mother, Theresa. pic.twitter.com/zECBM4xXOb
— Reggie Hayes (@reggiehayes1) April 28, 2018
Like Smith, Bates works to remain humble but driven, an athlete striving to be one of the best in his sport while maintaining his strong character.
“Jessie’s a great guy,” Smith said. “He’s done everything right to have this moment, his day.”
Bates declared for the NFL Draft after his redshirt sophomore season at Wake Forest, and some were surprised by the decision. Bates had strong numbers, including 120 solo tackles and six interceptions in two years. But he had still only played two seasons. Bates would not have made the move without investigating the options, gaining outside input into where he would likely stand with the pro scouts, and listening – that word again – to advice.
I mentioned to Bates’ mother, Theresa Ladd, how mature he seems for a 21-year-old.
She thought back to his formative years like only a mother can.
“I was a little worried in elementary and middle school and he finally got out of it,” she said. “Especially from his junior year (in high school) on, it’s impressive. He’s a great kid.”
Bates calls his mother his best friend and said when they hugged after the Bengals selected him, it was the most emotional moment of the night.
I thank God for blessing me with the opportunity to live my dream of playing in the @NFL for the Cincinnati @Bengals. Last night was memorable moment spent with my friends, family and hometown. Now it's TIME to work! #WHODEY #Believe #JB3 pic.twitter.com/vzyk7tNdR9
— Jessie Bates III (@jlbiii3) April 28, 2018
The wait for the 54th pick was a long one, but not unexpected. Ledo and others with insight into the process had told Bates indications were he would most likely be picked near the end of the second round.
“The pressure is on with pick after pick after pick,” Ladd said. “These last two days have been anxious, waiting and waiting. Once the call was made, there was so much relief.”
Smith said he was hoping the Cowboys would draft Bates so he could join Smith and his brother, Rod, as another Fort Wayne connection. As it turned out, Bates will join another Fort Wayne player, Bishop Dwenger alum Tyler Eifert, on the Bengals.
Smith has offered advice to Bates about the significant change from playing football in high school and college to playing it as a profession. That advice includes the need for focus in training, in nutrition and in all aspects of getting the optimal results on the field.
“You make the jump and start from Square One,” Bates said. “You build yourself back up and get around the best, get around the guys who’ve experienced the same things as you and had success with it.”
There’s Bates, ready to listen and learn. And thrive.
This column is the commentary of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of The News-Sentinel. Email Reggie Hayes at firstname.lastname@example.org.